NEW DELHI: The Centre on Friday advised all states to avoid or postpone mass gatherings till Covid-19 is contained as various regulators and institutions went into prevention mode to arrest the spread of the novel coronavirus infection that has so far affected 31 people across India.
The advisories came on a day the total number of Covid-19 cases crossed 1 lakh globally. The number of deaths caused by the novel coronavirus worldwide stood at 3,411 on Friday. India hasn’t reported any deaths. As of March 5, 29,607 people across India were under observation through the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) network for the novel coronavirus.
The latest to test positive for the infection is a 25-year-old man from Delhi’s Uttam Nagar. He is the third Covid-19 patient from the capital. An employee of a Gurgaon-based company, he had returned from a trip to Thailand and Malaysia on February 25. He has been admitted to Safdarjung hospital and 11 people — including his wife, brother, sister-in-law and their two kids — in the contact chain have been quarantined at home.
“Their samples have been collected for testing,” a health official of the Delhi government told TOI on Thursday. The Haryana health department will examine all 540 people who work on the same floor as him at the Udyog Vihar office of SAR Group on Saturday. A company spokesperson said the office had been closed for 10 days.
The government has also started the process of contact-tracing of a 76-year-old American citizen (to find the people who were in touch with him), who was in Mumbai recently and tested positive for Covid-19 in Bhutan on Friday.
Senior officials in the health ministry said the advisory on mass gatherings was issued as the risk of the infection spreading further was very high. “In case any such mass gatherings are organised, states may take necessary action to guide the organisers on precautions to be taken as per the risk communication material already sent so as to avoid any severe acute respiratory illness (SARI) cases and influenza-like illnesses (ILIs), including Covid-19,” a health ministry statement said.
The University Grants Commission (UGC), too, has directed universities to avoid any large gathering on campus.
On Thursday, the Prime Minister had declared there will be no Holi celebrations at his residence. The Rashtrapati Bhawan has also cancelled Holi gathering this year, sources said.
The Centre has also issued orders to suspend Aadhaar-based biometric attendance till March 31 to prevent transmission of Covid-19. In Delhi, the state government directed schools to suspend morning assembly as a precautionary measure and withhold biometric attendance for staff till further orders.
The Border Security Force (BSF), meanwhile, said the retreat ceremony at the Attari-Wagah border — a major crowdpuller — will be conducted without spectators from Saturday. And aviation watchdog DGCA said all airports and airline personnel will be examined for cold, fever and other symptoms before being subject to breathalyser tests. The instruction will be in force till March 13.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said while China, where Covid-19 outbreak started, is reporting a downward trend in number of infections, the rate of transmission in other countries is going up. “The epidemic can be pushed back, but only with a collective, contained and comprehensive approach that engages the entire machinery of the government,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director general, said. “If countries act aggressively to find, isolate and treat cases, and to trace every contact, they can change the trajectory of this epidemic,” he added.
One of the problems faced by people and health workers in India is the shortage of protective equipment such as masks and hand sanitisers in the market. The Centre has warned of stringent action against hoarding and black-marketing of these essentials. The Centre maintains there is no shortage of any Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) or medicines even though 95% of the country’s API imports come from China, leading to supply chains being disrupted globally.
Among Indians infected by the novel coronavirus are a 45-year-old man from Delhi’s Mayur Vihar and six of his relatives from Agra he had recently visited. Another is a Paytm employee who works in Gurgaon and lives in west Delhi. They are all being treated at Safdarjung hospital.
A 57-year-old businessman from Ghaziabad who tested positive for the virus is being treated at Ram Manohar Lohia hospital. A 24-year-old man from Hyderabad, who also tested positive, has been isolated in the city. Besides, 16 members of a tourist group from Italy and their Indian guide, a Noida resident, have been found to be infected with the novel coronavirus. While one Italian man and his wife are being treated at Jaipur’s SMS hospital, the 14 other members of the group have been admitted to the Medanta hospital in Gurgaon. Their Indian guide is at Safdarjung hospital in Delhi.
The total number of positive cases includes the first three reported from Kerala last month. All three have been discharged following recovery.
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